* Sudanese army battling SPLM-North rebels
* United States issued similar call last month
UNITED NATIONS Feb 14 The U.N. Security
Council on Tuesday called on Sudan and rebels in areas bordering
South Sudan to grant immediate access for U.N. aid workers to
the turbulent region, expressing "deep and growing alarm" at
rising hunger levels.
Fighting has been raging for months between the Sudanese
army and rebels from the SPLM-North, which wants to topple the
Khartoum government, in the states of South Kordofan and Blue
Nile, adjacent to newly independent South Sudan.
In a statement, the 15-nation council expressed "deep and
growing alarm with the rising levels of malnutrition and food
insecurity" in parts of the two states, "which could reach
emergency levels if not immediately addressed."
It called on Sudan's government and the rebels to allow
immediate access to U.N. personnel to allow them to carry out a
needs assessment and deliver supplies and equipment to civilians
affected by the conflict.
The United States issued a similar call last month, but
Sudan said it would continue to allow only limited access to
U.N. agencies and aid groups. The Foreign Ministry said relief
would have to be channeled through an official humanitarian aid
commission and the Sudanese Red Crescent.
U.N. agencies and aid groups have been able to keep only
small teams of local staff on the ground since the conflict
erupted. The government, citing security risks, has stopped aid
workers from visiting areas where there has been fighting.
The Security Council also called on Khartoum and the
SPLM-North to immediately stop fighting and to return to talks
to resolve their conflict.
South Kordofan and Blue Nile are home to tens of thousands
of fighters who battled Khartoum as part of the southern army
during a civil war that ended in 2005. Khartoum accuses Juba of
continuing to back the insurgents, which South Sudan denies.
The fighting in recent months has forced about 417,000
people to flee their homes, more than 80,000 of them to South
Sudan, according to the United Nations.
In the latest military action, Sudan's armed forces said on
Saturday they had seized an area held by rebels after a battle
lasting two days in Blue Nile.
(Reporting By Patrick Worsnip; Editing by Xavier Briand)